Samoa aims for Olympic spot

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 03 February 2024, 2:00PM

Just over a year ago, Juan Chang Urrea knew nothing about Samoa, now he has taken on the challenge of guiding the Samoa national women’s football team to the Paris Olympics 2024 and he feels this is their time.

He has the belief that this set of players has the desire and the talent to pull off a major upset. With the home support urging the women's team on, the coach believes it is time to put to use what the players have been training for.

“If I didn’t think we could win it, I wouldn’t be here, and those girls wouldn’t be here,” said Urrea.

Urrea is no stranger to football or Samoans, as the upcoming tournament will be his third campaign but first as the senior head coach for the Samoan women’s football team. 

He was there when Samoa won the bronze at the 2023 OFC Under 20’s Women's Championship and assisted with the women’s football team in the recent Pacific Games.  

“What makes me come back is not only the love I have for Samoa, but I understand how much football potential we have as a country to make an impact on the world stage,” said Urrea.

Confident that his team is ready for the tournament, Urrea’s team motto ahead of game days is  that the girls will take it “one day at a time.”

He takes pride in leading the team and considers it a blessing to host the tournament in Samoa. 

“We know it’s a responsibility, but for us, it's a blessing to be playing at home turf in front of our people. That is a blessing we are not taking lightly - that is what it means for us,” said Urrea. 

With 10 years of professional football experience under his belt, when it comes to outside influence, Urrea’s input is always focused on football rather than bringing in his own culture. 

He has researched Samoan culture and knows of the vā between players and coaches and about the Siva Samoa. Their team routine involves starting and ending their days with a lotu. 

Urrea spoke highly about the team’s mission which is L.I.B.T.Y.F.I - an acronym for leaving it better than you found it, which refers to the playing jerseys the women will wear.

“Our vision is that we belong on the world stage,” said Urrea.

Additionally, he has coached women’s football teams for six years in New Zealand, where he was recognised four times in a row as the Mainland Football New Zealand Women’s Coach of the Year.

He was born in Germany but grew up in Guatemala. Later, he pursued his studies in the USA and has played professional football in various countries, including the USA, Guatemala, Spain, and New Zealand.

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 03 February 2024, 2:00PM
Samoa Observer

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